Theres been a lot of talk and banter on our G+ community page regarding film over digital. Street Hunters are quite divided on the subject; digital is the lazy art of photography, and analogue some weird ju ju akin to Alchemy or digital shooters are the jedi masters of speed and agility and film buffs doddery relics of a golden age.
I shoot digital, although as an artist I believe having a fixed position, especially when in the early stages of your training is restricting. So with that in mind, a few weeks ago I happened to be browsing through E-Bay and stumbled upon a Yashica Electro 35. £9 plus £6.15 p+p.( please use a currency converter – in short the camera was being sold for less than four pints of lager) In the description the owner had written ‘ This was my grandfathers, I think it still works.’ As a sucker for the sentimental I was now riven with E-Bay fever. Click, and after 17hrs of waiting, the e-mail arrived! I was now the owner of the Yashica. It arrived 6 days later, and these are my thoughts.
Me and My Yashica
HOW HEAVY! At just short of 700g the Yashica is cumbersome. A brick. But hidden away in the slightly battered original case was a gleaming near perfect condition camera with dials,knobs and numbers beautifully machined and balanced making a great looking camera. There was even that tiny mechanical thud as I turned the aperture ring as it slotted into it’s next setting.
Does it work? It certainly clicked, dials turned, the lever felt solid but the battery check didn’t light up. At this point I wasn’t too disappointed and after a little research I realised the mercury battery which used to be housed inside was no longer available, so I ordered a 6v Alkaline battery. When it arrived I slipped it in and …and….and nothing. Now I was disappointed. Never one to give up too easily I shambled across to my local photography shop and thrust the camera into the hands of a member of staff.
‘Does this work?’ and after a good 7 minutes he handed it back,
‘I don’t know.’
The assistant had as much idea as I did about turning the camera on. In the short years of camera development and the switch to digital the language of analogue has been lost. It seemed my venturing into film had been unsuccessful. When it comes to useless things I am fairly callous in their disposal so whilst dangling the camera over a public litter bin I was struck by a single thought. ‘Did you put the battery in the right way round prat!’
Hurriedly I unscrewed the the camera from it’s case, fumbled for a coin to get into the battery housing, urged the battery out and flipped it round.
NO WAY! YESSSS WAY! – My Yashica was alive! I pushed the shutter button and the little red ‘over’ light flashed , I rolled a dial and now the yellow ‘slow’ light glowed it’s eerie welcome to analogue. I returned immediately to the shop and invested in a single roll of 400 asa film for £7.99 , a whopping 22p per each of the 36 frames but essential to check whether the camera had any light leaks. Alas it was fairly dull that day and so I decided to wait until there was at least some sunshine to shoot off the roll.
In doing so I found out a couple of things.
- Expensive film makes you take your time.
- People don’t appear to mind a camera which looks like a camera being pointed at them
- Fixed settings make for an easier time
I tried similar shots I would take with my digital and in no time at all the lever arm locked and I was done.
Another trip to the camera shop and I handed over the film….another £7.99 but worse, this £7.99 came with a 3, yes 3 week wait to have just the negatives developed.
I wait with baited breath.
The Yashica is a beautiful thing/machine, robust and elegant in equal handfuls and for a newbie in the field of film it seems logical and easy to use. Although I have no proof of it yet, there is a certain amount of pleasure in knowing it has one job,and one job alone : to take images. It isn’t a tool to which can text your long lost sister in the other corner of the world, it doesn’t help you create photobooks, and it certainly hasn’t endless menus and styles and setting to fidget with.This simplicity, whether I use the facilities or not on a digital, seemed to free me up, and slow me down which are good things although it did feel like I was wearing a blindfold to a battle.
A tearful reunion with my negatives?